St Benet's Hall, Oxford

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Colleges and halls of the University of Oxford

St Benet's Hall

St Benet's Hall
                             
College name St Benet's Hall
Latin name Aula Privata Sancti Benedicti
Named after St Benedict of Nursia
Established 1897
Sister college None
Master Werner G Jeanrond
Undergraduates 54
Graduates 10
Location 38 St Giles', Oxford

St Benet's Hall, Oxford is located in Oxford city centre
St Benet's Hall, Oxford

Location of St Benet's Hall within central OxfordCoordinates: 51°45′29″N 1°15′39″W / 51.757952°N 1.260787°W / 51.757952; -1.260787
College Website
Boat Club
St Benet's Hall Oxford Coat Of Arms.svg
Blazon Per fesse dancetté or and azure, a chief per pale gules and of the second, charged on the dexter with two keys in saltire or and argent, and on the sinister with a cross flory between five martlets of the first.

St Benet's Hall (known colloquially as "Benet's") is a Permanent Private Hall (PPH) of the University of Oxford. Established in 1897 by Ampleforth Abbey, it is a Benedictine foundation whose principal historic function was to allow its monks to be able to study for secular degrees at the University. Today, most members of the Hall are not monks, but lay undergraduates. The Hall, which is still owned by Ampleforth Abbey, has a Benedictine and Roman Catholic ethos. However, there is no requirement that members of the Hall should be Catholics.[1]

The Hall is currently the only constituent body of the University admitting men alone to read for undergraduate degrees. However, in November 2013, the Hall formally announced its intention to admit women undergraduates as soon as new housing facilities are obtained.[2] Women are already eligible to be admitted to read for graduate degrees. The Hall admitted its first woman graduate student member in October 2014.

The recent review of the PPHs conducted by the University concluded that St Benet's had a 'good sense of its place within the collegiate University', and drew attention to the 'commitment and care' of the Hall's academic staff.[3] In May 2013, the Student Barometer survey results showed that St Benet's Hall has the highest overall student satisfaction score out of the 44 constituent colleges and permanent private halls of the University.[4]

It is located at the northern end of St Giles' on its western side, close to the junction with Woodstock Road, Oxford.

History[edit]

Benedictine heritage[edit]

Benedictine monks had studied and taught at Oxford since at least 1281 when Gloucester Abbey founded Gloucester College. The area today known as Gloucester Green was named after this college. In 1291, Durham Abbey founded Durham College, and in 1362 Christ Church Priory in Canterbury founded Canterbury College. All three Benedictine colleges were closed between 1536 and 1545 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII. Gloucester College was eventually re-founded as Worcester College. Durham College was re-founded as Trinity College. The original college's name is preserved in Trinity's Durham Quadrangle. Canterbury College's property was acquired by Christ Church. Until the establishment of St Benet's Hall in 1897, the Benedictines had been absent from the University for over 350 years.

St Benet's Hall is not a re-foundation of any of the former Benedictine colleges of Oxford. Rather, the Hall is an indirect descendant of Westminster Abbey by virtue of its establishment by Ampleforth Abbey. In the 960s or early 970s, Saint Dunstan, assisted by King Edgar, installed a community of Benedictine monks at Westminster. Although the English Benedictine priories and abbeys were closed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, one solitary Benedictine monastery was re-established in Westminster Abbey by Mary I (1553-1558) as part of her unsuccessful attempt to restore Catholicism in England. After her death, her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth I dissolved the monastery once again. By 1607, only one of the Westminster monks was still alive, Dom Sigebert Buckley (c. 1520-1610). Buckley professed a group of English monks in 1608 and thereby passed onto them the rights and privileges of the ancient English Benedictine Congregation. They then went into exile in France. In 1615, these English monks took up residence in the abandoned collegiate church of Saint Laurent, in the town of Dieulouard, near Nancy in the Lorraine region of north-eastern France. The community adopted St Lawrence as their patron saint. In 1792, Dieulouard Priory was closed and the monks were expelled from France as part of the hostility against the clergy associated with the French Revolution. They opted to return to England.

At that same time in England, a Benedictine priest, Fr Anselm Bolton, was the chaplain to Lady Anne Fairfax at Gilling Castle, North Yorkshire. She was the only daughter of Charles Gregory Fairfax, 9th and last Viscount Fairfax of Emley. She built Ampleforth Lodge for Fr Bolton just before she died. In 1802, Bolton handed this house over to his newly arrived Benedictine brethren to be their new monastery, Ampleforth Priory. In 1803, the monks established Ampleforth College, today a prestigious Catholic secondary school. In October 1897, the Priory established a hall of studies in Oxford for the purpose of enabling monks to read for secular degrees at the University of Oxford. The Priory was elevated to the status of an independent abbey in 1899 by Pope Leo XIII in the Papal Bull Diu quidem est. Ampleforth Abbey renamed the hall of studies as St. Benet's Hall in 1918 when it became a Permanent Private Hall of the University.

Private Hall[edit]

Private Halls of Study at the University took their name from their Master, and the Hall was known successively as Hunter-Blair's Hall and Parker's Hall. The Hall was not established as a theological college, but rather as a hall of studies so that the student monks could read for a degree in any subject. Today, however, the Hall only admits students to read for degrees in the humanities.

The Hall was initially housed at 103 Woodstock Road. This house is still in existence, opposite SS Philip and James Church, and is now a guest-house. The Hall was there until 1904, when it moved to the former Grindle's Hall in Beaumont Street, from which it removed in 1922 to the present buildings of 38 and 39 St Giles. The Beaumont Street houses were demolished in 1938 to make space for the Oxford Playhouse theatre.

Permanent Private Hall of the University of Oxford[edit]

St Benet's became a Permanent Private Hall of the University in 1918 when new University legislation created the status of PPH. It took as its official name Aula Privata Sancti Benedicti (in English, "St Benet's Hall"). Benet is an English variant of the name Benedict. The Hall is named after St Benedict of Nursia (c.480-547), the founder of the Benedictine order, father of western monasticism and patron saint of Europe and of students. The governing body of the Hall are the trustees of the St Benet's Education Trust. The Trust's chairman is ex officio the Abbot of Ampleforth Abbey.

38 & 39 St Giles[edit]

Yellow Room, St Benet's Hall

The Hall currently occupies 38 St Giles, which was built around 1830 as two separate house (38 and 39).[5] The site was previously part of a coster's (i.e., fruit seller's) yard and stable. In the nineteenth century, the two houses served as private homes for several Anglican clergymen connected to the University and to a number of widows of independent means.

The north hall (38 St Giles) was, in 1841, occupied as the private dwelling of the Rev. Philip Bliss, Registrar of the University of Oxford and later Principal of St Mary's Hall. Bliss lived there with his wife and four servants. A decade later, it was the home of the University's Public Orator and Vice Principal and later Principal of Magdalen Hall, Rev. Richard Michell. In 1874, Michell became first Principal of the refounded Hertford College. After a two-year period as the Oxford High School (1879-1881), it became a private home once more, belonging briefly to Charlotte Cotton, widow of the Rev. Richard Lynch Cotton, Provost of Worcester College (1881-1882). It then belonged to Rev. S. J. Hulme, Chaplain of Wadham College (1884-1887). In 1889, it served briefly as the Oxford Eye Hospital which is today part of the John Radcliffe Hospital. In 1891, it was acquired by Madame de Leobardy and opened as St Ursula's Convent, a boarding and day school for Roman Catholic girls.[5]

The south hall (39 St Giles) was the private home of Letitia Pett (1841-1846) and Maria Brown (1852-1861), both widows. It was then acquired by the Rev. Richard Greswell, tutor in theology at Worcester College, and his family (1861-1881). After his death in 1881, his widow Joanna Greswell lived in the house until 1894. The British military historian, Sir Charles William Chadwick Oman, Fellow of All Souls College and Chichele Professor of Modern History, acquired the house in 1898 and lived there until 1908. In 1909, it too was purchased by Madame de Leobardy and became an extension of the convent school next door.[5]

St. Ursula's Covent School closed in 1922. Ampleforth Abbey acquired both buildings in 1923 and combined the two sections into one hall. It has been the home of St Benet's Hall ever since.

Modern status[edit]

St Benet's Hall Garden

Until recently, the Master of the Hall was always a Benedictine monk. The current Master is a Catholic layman. The Hall retains a Monastic Prior as well as a Chaplain, both of whom are monks. The Hall now principally admits laymen both as undergraduates and postgraduates. While there is no requirement that members of the Hall should be Catholics - and indeed most are not - all are asked to be supportive of the monks' life and values.[6]

As St Benet's is a PPH of the University, its Fellows do not constitute its governing body; but they share with the Master the day-to-day running of the Hall, and elect one of their number to serve as a trustee of the St Benet's Education Trust. The Hall matriculates students to be members of the University, and those of its members who have matriculated are full members of the University in all ways, and are able to supplicate for degrees on the successful completion of their studies. For most of its members the only noticeable difference made by the Hall's legal status is that it is very much smaller than any of the Oxford constituent colleges.

On 1 September 2012, Werner G. Jeanrond, formerly Professor of Divinity at the University of Glasgow, became the new Master of St Benet’s Hall. He is the first Catholic layman ever to run the Hall. Jeanrond is a full member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at Oxford and is engaged in both teaching and research, as well as serving as head of house.

The current subjects in which students are admitted by St Benet's are Theology, Philosophy and Theology, Theology and Oriental Studies, History, History and Politics, History and Economics, Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), Classics, Classics with Oriental Studies, Oriental Studies (Egyptology; Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Hebrew Studies, and Jewish Studies), Oriental Studies with Classics.[7]

Student life[edit]

Refectory

Unlike other Colleges and PPHs, St Benet's has a Joint Common Room (J.C.R.) of which all students at the Hall are members.[6] The J.C.R. has its own committee.[8]

Rowing[edit]

Despite the small size of the Hall, an VIII has been put on the river for many years.[9] In recent years, it has had a good record of winning 'blades', the trophy awarded for 'bumping' (rowing past teams ranked above) every day in the Torpids and Summer Eights bumps races.

Refectory[edit]

Members of the Hall are entitled to invite guests to all meals. A tradition of the Hall is that there is one Common Table for all members,[6] with the result that fellows, lecturers, monks, students, and their guests mix freely. The Common Table is the longest dining table at the University of Oxford.

Coat of Arms[edit]

Coat of Arms of Ampleforth Abbey

St Benet’s Hall uses the same Coat of Arms of Ampleforth Abbey and Ampleforth College, but, like the College, without the abbot’s crozier and galero (ecclesiastical hat with tassels). The Arms were granted to the Abbey by the English College of Arms in 1922. The Abbey made the application to the College of Arms to regularise its armorial position as the lineal descendant of Westminster Abbey. The purpose of this move was to conform to proper authority and thus not be open to the charge of lack of consideration for post-Reformation bodies already bearing variants of the Westminster arms in their own line of heraldic descent.

The Pre-Reformation City of Westminster sometimes used a red shield with two keys in saltire to symbolise Saint Peter to whom its Abbey Church was dedicated. In addition, Westminster also used a blue shield with a gold “cross flory” between five gold martlets (heraldic birds). This forms the attributed arms of St Edward the Confessor (reign 1042-1066), the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, who is regarded as the principal patron and founder of Westminster Abbey. Both these arms appear in the chief (top portion) of the shield. The base (lower portion) of the shield is gold and blue divided “dancetté” (by a zigzag line). This represents the arms of the pre-Reformation Abbots of Westminster who would place their personal coat of arms in the top portion (chief) of the shield. The last Benedictine Abbot of Westminster to use this coat of arms was John Feckenham (c. 1515-1584) who was removed from office by Elizabeth I in 1560 at the final suppression of the Abbey. The abbey church then became known as the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster, which remains its official name to this day.

The present shield of Ampleforth Abbey, Ampleforth College, and St Benet’s Hall is thus a combination of three shields – the first representing St Peter (top left), the second representing St Edward the Confessor (top right), and the bottom representing the pre-Reformation Benedictine Abbots of Westminster.

The heraldic blazon of the arms is as follows: Per fesse dancetté Or and Azure a chief per pale Gules and of the second charged on the dexter with two keys in saltire Or and Argent and on the sinister with a Cross Flory between five martlets of the first.

Graces[edit]

Hall Chapel

The following Grace is said in Latin before every Formal Hall which at St Benet's is held on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. It is said by the Master or a person he designates. In addition, after Grace, an undergraduate student reads a short passage from the Rule of St Benedict in English.

Hall Library
Gratiarum actio ante cibum
Benedic Domine,
nos et haec tua dona
quae de tua largitate sumus sumpturi,
per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen
Grace before the meal
Bless us, O Lord,
and these thy gifts
which we are about to receive from thy bounty,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Grace after the meal is said in Latin after Formal Hall by the Chaplain in the following form:

Gratiarum actio post cibum
Agimus tibi gratias,
omnipotens Deus,
pro universis beneficiis tuis,
qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
Grace after the meal
We give thee thanks,
O almighty God,
for all thy benefits,
who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.

People associated with St Benet's[edit]

Very Revd Dom Henry Wansbrough

Masters[edit]

The current Master of St Benet's Hall is Werner G Jeanrond.[10]

St Benet's has had eleven Masters since it was established in 1897:[11]

Fellows[edit]

As of Michaelmas term 2014, notable Fellows of the Hall include:[12]

Honorary Fellows

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Reisz, Matthew. "St Benet’s: fellowship of the ecumenical table". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Gurney-Read, Josey. "Oxford hall announces decision to admit women". The Telegraph. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  3. ^ "Review of the Permanent Private Halls associated with the University of Oxford". Oxford University Gazette, Vol 138 (September 2007). University of Oxford. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  4. ^ Poulten, Sarah. "PPH students most satisfied". The Oxford Student. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c "Oxford History article". Retrieved 7 December 2008. 
  6. ^ a b c St Benet's Hall - University of Oxford. Ox.ac.uk. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  7. ^ St Benet's Hall, Oxford. St-benets.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  8. ^ St Benet's Hall, Oxford. St-benets.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  9. ^ Home - St Benet's Hall Boat Club. Stbenetsboatclub.webs.com. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  10. ^ St Benet's Hall, Oxford. St-benets.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved on 2012-09-01.
  11. ^ St Benet's Hall, Oxford. St-benets.ox.ac.uk (1939-09-12). Retrieved on 2012-09-05.
  12. ^ St Benet's Hall, Oxford. St-benets.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved on 2012-09-05.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]